By George Liu
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2014-06-20 05:00 PM
One Fighting Championship: War of Dragons is coming to Taiwan! On July 11, One FC War of Dragons will be held at the National Taiwan University Sports Center in Taipei at 6:30 PM. It will be the first ever international major league mixed martial art (MMA) competition held in Taiwan. Headlining the heavyweight card will be hometown superstar Paul Cheng.
Cheng was born in Taipei, Taiwan and immigrated to Toronto, Canada at the age of nine. He wrestled and played football in high school and college and was drafted out of Simon Fraser University by the CFL B.C. Lions as a defensive tackle. After a few years in the CFL, one of Cheng’s Asian stuntmen friends introduced him to the movie industry, landing him a part in “Night at the Museum” and its sequel. These same stuntmen encouraged Cheng to take up martial arts to compliment his skills on the screen. Cheng started boxing professionally and then transitioned to MMA under his present coach Sal Ram.
Taiwan News had the pleasure to sit down with Cheng for an exclusive interview during the buildup to One FC War of Dragons.
Regarding his transition from football to MMA, Cheng remarked that there were many correlations such as strength and explosiveness on the field and in the cage, dedication to the sport, and being able to perform in front of audiences topping 40,000 people. For Cheng, the biggest difference lies in the endurance factor. As a defensive tackle, he rarely had to sprint for very long. His performance was limited to short bouts of explosive activity. In MMA, Cheng has had to work very hard on his endurance, dropping his weight from close to 300 lbs. (136 kg. or 21 st.) to under 260 lbs. (118 kg. or 18 st.).
When asked at which distance he feels he excels, Cheng is emphatic in his ability to be effective in all aspects of MMA. He can fight standing, in the clinch, wrestling, and even from guard. He would prefer not to be on his back but, as his last fight with Alain Ngalani showed, he can survive the bottom position and come back for the win. Cheng admits that he does not throw as many kicks as he should. Kicks, along with Jujutsu, are two aspects of his skill set that warrant improvement. Since his loss to Peter Nolan, Cheng has progressed from a white belt in Jujutsu to nearly a purple belt and he has begun to devote time to studying the art of Judo.
Cheng feels that his wrestling background is a distinct advantage in transitioning to Jujutsu. Through his wrestling skills, Cheng is able to dictate his position when landing on the ground to better take advantage of his superior top game.
On his thoughts regarding his next opponent, Mahmoud Hassan, Cheng understands that the Egyptian is a hard hitter with dangerous heavy hands. Cheng knows Hassan will want to throw his powerful right so is ready to stop that from happening. If Hassan wants to stand and box, Cheng will oblige him.When asked if he will try to take the fight to the ground, Cheng was enigmatic in his reply saying, “We’ll see where the fight takes us.”
Cheng was unequivocal in his desire to bring the excitement of international MMA to his hometown and the people of Taiwan. “There has never been an Asian heavyweight MMA world champion.” asserted Cheng. Cheng wants his dedication and hard work to inspire the next generation to follow their dreams so that, even if Cheng does not make it to the mountaintop, there will be eager young Taiwanese ready to step up to become heavyweight world champion. His advice to aspiring fighters, “Three years ago I was nothing, now I am a world ranked fighter.”
One FC War of Dragons is a homecoming for Cheng and, in a way, he has also come full circle. Cheng disclosed that his family, like typical Asian families, merely tolerated his athletic pursuits. At the beginning of his professional athletic career on the gridiron, he mother famously said, “You never see any Asian faces on TV playing football, why do you want to do that?” Cheng’s mother only agreed to watch her son play after he appeared on TV. She fulfilled that promise and now, at the apogee of Cheng’s journey, his family not only tolerates but highly supports his endeavors and will fly all the way from Toronto to watch Cheng fight in front of a roaring hometown crowd on July 11 at One FC War of Dragons.
One FC Director of Public Relations Loren Mack added, One FC War of Dragons will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, Star Sports, and 70 channels worldwide. Cheng’s Taiwan debut will bring Taiwan’s flag into the living rooms of a huge global audience and, not only raise the sport’s visibility and popularity in Taiwan, but also raise Taiwan’s visibility on the world stage.
As of this report, two local Taiwanese fighters have also been added to the fight card. According to One FC’s June 20 press release, “Two top Taiwanese mixed martial artists will also be making their ONE FC debuts. Bantamweight Sung Ming Yen and lightweight Zhang Zheng Jie will meet Malaysian opponents Muhamad Haidar and Rayner Kinsiong respectively. Hong Kong’s Nathan Ng will also make his promotional debut against Taiwan-based French fighter Florian Garel.”